With autumn well and truly upon us, chances are your council has already begun its annual road resealing projects.

Although regular road maintenance is essential, poor practices around road signage, stone sweeping and contractor management can become hazardous and costly.

Read on to find out how to safeguard your community, reduce your risk of liability claims and ultimately, save lives.


Resealing and sweeping: The risks and costs

During this prime autumnal season, your council’s contractors are likely hard at work resealing roads to ensure the longevity of your community’s infrastructure.

But how sure are you that your contractors are completing the job to ensure maximum road safety?

In other words, are they erecting road signage to inform drivers of the change in speed limit? Are they returning to the site at the right time to remove all excess stones that haven’t cemented into the road? And are they dismantling the road signage as soon as the process is complete?

If you can’t be sure of one or more of the above, your council is at risk.

Best case scenario? A series of small claims for broken or cracked windscreens from flying loose stones. Worst case scenario? Serious injury – or even death – of drivers, riders, passengers or pedestrians.


Beyond cracked windscreens: The human impact

The serious potential consequences of delayed and haphazard road sweeping aren’t just hypothetical. They’re real. And they’re devastating.

In 2004, one regional NSW council was found liable for the death of a young mother after a costly 12-year courtroom battle. In 2018, another regional NSW council was held liable for the death of a motorbike rider. Both fatalities were found to have been caused by the vehicle wheels losing traction on the loose gravel, causing the driver/rider to lose control.

These cases serve as an urgent reminder of your council’s responsibility to take every possible action to prevent similar avoidable tragedies – and the long and arduous legal cases that ensue.


What your council can do to mitigate risk

A proactive, hands-on approach is key to hazard reduction. At Statewide, we recommend our member councils take the following three actions every time.

  • Ensure appropriate signage: Your council is responsible for warning road users of the potential for loose stones to fly – or for their car or bike to skid – if they drive too fast during the danger period. So be sure to erect highly visible speed reduction and ‘loose stones’ signs well ahead of, and at regular intervals throughout, the work area.
  • Update signs regularly – or remove them: It must be crystal clear to road users if the road repair process is still in progress or if it’s completed and safe to drive or ride as normal. That’s why signs must be removed or covered as soon as they are no longer relevant. Outdated signs can lead to confusion – or worse, apathy with sign blindness.
  • Establish proper contractor management: We often see councils take a hands-off approach with contractors, entrusting them to take care of road resealing and sweeping from start to finish. But as roads are council worksites, you are liable if anything goes wrong. So be sure to:

    – Establish clear expectations with contractors regarding timelines and standards for road sweeping after resealing
    – Inspect the road before signing off on the contractor’s job and dismantling signage

How do your road management practices stack up?

If your council is not following due process around road signage, sweeping and contractor management, the consequences could be costly and dangerous. Even deadly.

But by implementing these three critical recommendations every time, you will safeguard your community – while also reducing your council’s exposure to significant risk.

Looking for more advice on how to improve your resealing process and road risk management? Speak to your Regional Risk Manager today. 

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